Wednesday Jul, 28 2021 08:25:28 AM

BIFF seizes Maguindanao town, Army, rebels trade shots

Mindanao Armed Conflict • 09:15 AM Sat May 8, 2021
Edwin O. Fernandez

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao  – Heavily armed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) today occupied the town center of Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

Hudnreds of motorists and passengers were also stranded as the Datu Paglas-Tulunan highway was closed to trffic beginning at 4 a.m. today.

Lt. Colonel John Paul Baldomar, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said about 200 heavily armed BIFF under the Kagi Karialan faction occupied the town’s public market and established defensive positions.

Also in the market were vendors and civilians who were prevented by the BIFF from leaving, making them indirect human shields.

Baldomar said the Army and the police have surrounded the area where the BIFF are located.

“We are giving the civilian leaders to negotiate with the BIFF for peaceful end of the standoff,” Baldomar told reporters.

“When necessary, we will use force, right now we are assessing the situation,” he said.

Abu Jihad, speaking for the BIFF, confirmed the gunmen who occupied the town public market are BIFF under Kagi Karialan faction.

He refused to reveal why they had to occupy the town center.

A cargo truck was blocked along the national highway leading to the town public market.

“We have been stranded here since 5 a.m.,” Allan Sindatuk, a motorist, said in a radio interview.

Datu Paglas Mayor Toy Paglas said negotiations for the withdrawal of the armed men.

As of 9 a.m. sporadic firing are heard in the Poblacion while civilians mill the sides of the national highway.

Armored personnel carriers from the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade have been moving toward Datu Paglas while two helicopter gunships hover above.  

Hannie Lamentac, a resident of POblacion, Datu Paglas, posted on her FB page the image of atruck that the BIFF used to block the highway. (Edwin O. Fernandez)

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